A roundup of the day's best campaign 2012 coverage.
The New Yorker's Ryan Lizza, in a lengthy profile of GOP presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann, finds that the Minnesota congresswoman "belongs to a generation of Christian conservatives whose views have been shaped by institutions, tracts, and leaders not commonly known to secular Americans, or even to most Christians." Also: "'If there was one word on a motivation or world view, that one word would be liberty,' Bachmann told me in early August, when I asked about her world view... Liberty is the concept – or at least the word – most resonant with the Republican Party's Tea Party faction, which Bachmann's presidential aspirations depend upon. It is a peculiarity of the current political moment that a politician with a history of pushing sectarian religious beliefs in government has become a hero to a libertarian movement... Religious and fiscal conservatives have been moving toward this kind of unity for decades, and Bachmann, in her crusades against abortion, education standards, gay marriage – as well as in her passionate opposition to raising the debt ceiling – has always cast government as the villain, often using terms that echo Schaeffer's post-Roe warning that America risked falling into the hands of 'a manipulative and authoritarian elite.'" [The New Yorker]
Bachmann – all vacant grin and hollow stare – also adorns the cover of Newsweek, which dubs her the "Queen of Rage" and predicts a successful finish in this weekend's Iowa straw poll: "In Iowa, Bachmann's simple, black-and-white distillations of complex problems are cheered as refreshing and tough. It's part of the reason she finds herself favored to finish near the top of the Ames Straw Poll on Aug. 13, the first political-strength test of the arduous 2012 presidential contest... Just months ago, Bachmann was the butt of jokes on late-night TV for her flawed grasp of U.S. history. But all that changed one night this spring when she took the stage at the first major GOP presidential debate with the middle-aged, drab men running for the nomination, and set herself apart with poise and precision. When others meandered or waffled, she shot back with answers that reduced Washington's dysfunctional gridlock to understandable soundbites." [Newsweek]
The Wall Street Journal sizes up the straw poll -- what it is, why it matters: 'Thousands of Iowa Republicans will converge on the college city of Ames this Saturday to cast ballots in a straw poll of the GOP presidential field. The event, held amid barbeque and country bands does not allocate any of the delegates that candidates need to win the nomination, and it has not been a reliable predictor of who will win the state's presidential caucus next year. Yet, most GOP candidates are treating the straw poll as an important landmark that can help or hurt their campaigns... That is because a strong performance at the straw poll can move a candidate to the top of the pecking order, drawing additional buzz and media attention. A poor performance can stifle a candidate's fundraising and force him or her from the field." [Wall Street Journal]
The New York Times measures the long shadow the late Jon Hunstman Sr. casts over his son's career: "Here in Utah, where many still call him Junior, [Jon Huntsman, Jr.] remains, for better or worse, Jon Huntsman Sr.'s son. It is both his blessing and his burden... As founder and chairman of the Huntsman Corporation, the elder Huntsman presides over a global chemical manufacturer with 2010 revenues of $9.3 billion. Having briefly flirted with a run for governor in 1988, he has worked over the years to ease his son’s path, according to those who know them both... Mr. Huntsman acknowledges that his father’s 'vast network' has helped open doors. But what matters, he says, is how he fared when he walked through them. 'You either rise to the ability to perform,' he said, 'or you don’t.'" [New York Times]
The Response, a prayer event hosted by Rick Perry over the weekend, was not the disaster many had predicted, reports the Washington Post: "The religious gathering spearheaded by Texas Gov. Rick Perry this past weekend in Houston amounted to a major political gamble that paid off for the Texas Republican, who is widely expected to run for president in 2012... With Perry now widely assumed to be a candidate in the not-too-distant future, a small(ish) crowd or a weak – or too heavily political – performance by the governor would assuredly have subjected him to criticism. Instead, the crowd at Reliant Stadium was estimated at 30,000 - not too shabby." [Washington Post]
The economy shouldn't be a deciding factor in the 2012 elections, argues Conor Friedersdorf , because presidents are powerless to control it: "Among political scientists, the near consensus is that the economy determines, more than anything else, whether a president is re-elected. And the unemployment rate, the debt-ceiling fight, and the decision of S&P to downgrade America's credit rating have kept economics in the headlines. But I am not going to vote in 2012 based on the unemployment rate, or GDP numbers, or the credit rating. Nor should you. It isn't just that blame for the bad economy is properly spread among many actors, including Obama, President Bush, various Congresses, the mortgage industry, and voters. Or that presidents, no matter what policies they implement, just don't have that much control over economic health. As relevant as those factors may be, I am going to ignore the economy when I vote for a different reason: the president largely determines policy on foreign affairs, national security, and civil liberties – and all are even more important than GDP and the unemployment rate." [The Atlantic]
Good news (for a change) for Obama: his approval ratings are slowly creeping up in key 2012 states: "Residents of 16 states and the District of Columbia gave President Obama approval ratings of 50 percent or higher during the first half of 2011, led by the District of Columbia, Connecticut, Maryland, and Delaware... Thus, a key for Obama is to try to push his national approval rating back above the 50 perccent mark before November 2012, and to have it at or above that level in as many states as possible, given that the presidential election will be determined by the winner of the greater number of state electoral votes. Currently, a majority of states show approval ratings below 50 percent, though whether Obama is victorious will also depend in part on who his GOP challenger is, whether a significant third-party candidate runs, and the degree to which the president's supporters turn out to vote." [Gallup]